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Posted by on in personal productivity | 12 comments

4 Lessons Learned From Using a Virtual Assistant

4 Lessons Learned From Using a Virtual Assistant

jeffbrodieToday I’m honored to have Jeff Brodie providing a guest post. Jeff is a leader that you need to get to know. He is the Executive Director at Connexus Community Church, a multi-campus church north of Toronto, and a strategic partner of North Point Ministries. He has been working with families and students for over a decade and is passionate about family and church coming together to reach this generation.

Get to know Jeff: Read his blog. Follow Him on Twitter


I currently have a great assistant, whose time I share with our lead pastor. She does a fantastic job. However, 4 months ago I ran into a problem.

I had recently shifted to the position of Executive Director of our church, and the administrative demands were growing for myself, the lead pastor, and our shared assistant.

I could have hired a personal assistant part time, but hiring great people takes a lot of time and resources that I didn’t want to spend. On top of that, I wasn’t really sure how many hours of extra help I needed. I realized I wanted someone who had scalable time flexibility.

We’d kicked around the idea of hiring a Virtual Assistant in the past, and I decided it was time to give it a shot. I asked around, and started with EAHelp. I was up and running with my assistant within weeks. She works 5 hours a week and is flexible with her time. Two months in, here’s what I’ve learned.

virutalassistant1) A Virtual Assistant Is Hyper Efficient

Office assistants deal with a lot of interruptions, Virtual Assistants don’t.

An assistant who is present in the office is helpful, but they deal with a lot of interruptions that happen in office culture. They also end up helping others with things that may not be in their regular workflow. When it comes to moving projects along, a virtual assistant can often get something done in much less time. A 5 hour assistant can make more of an impact then you think. I think a virtual assistant can do many tasks in half the time.

2) Working Virtually Is Easier Than You Think

You are likely already doing this.

Initially you might wonder how you could keep in regular contact with a virtual assistant? How does she meet with others? How would this even work?

What became apparent very quickly is that you are likely already using most of the tools they do. You basically need 4 tools: Skype, Dropbox, an online calendar, and an online “to do” list. Most leaders are using some, maybe even all, of these tools. If you aren’t they can also match you with an assistant who can get you rolling. My VA moved me to Asana and it’s helped me work more efficiently.

3) Paying For Time = Paying Attention To Time

When you focus on time efficiency you focus on preparation.

Having a 5 hour a week assistant can make you a better prepared leader. Knowing I only have 5 hours focuses me to use my time with my assistant well. I think through my projects and meetings with her with more intentionality. We have two 10min meetings a week (Mon and Wed) and I come well prepared knowing that I don’t want to waste her time. This has made me a better leader.

4) A Virtual Assistant Can Do More Than You think

The list of what they can’t do is very short.

The #1 question I get about having a virtual EA is, what do they do for you? Given the training, they can do almost everything. Writing, research, leading staff, running your calendar, taking notes in meetings, writing reports, screening email, updating your online presence, getting food delivered for a meeting, setting up a survey, the list goes on.

So far the only thing they can’t do is “onsite” filing and trouble shooting live challenges I have in church on a Sunday morning.

The list of what they can do is much, much longer than the list of what they can’t do.

What are your thoughts on using a virtual assistant? What are some areas you can or can’t see this solution working for you?

 

 

12 Comments

  1. This really interests me. I need to find some of this kind of help, but I’ve never worked with even an onsite EA. I’m not sure how to begin the transition.

    • Hey Chris. I have a friend who runs a rapidly growing tech company in Montreal and he was in the exact same boat. After hearing about my experience, he’s been with his VA for just over a month and is starting to see the benefits. There is no doubt that it takes a few weeks to get into a new rhythm with a new person (like any new staff). The clincher for me was the scalable time. I could build responsibility, always get more time if I needed it, and if I didn’t like how it was going, I could always end the contract. It was worth a shot. I knew eventually I would have to do something if I was going to make progress in my role. They also had a great relationship manager who facilitates the transition and matches you with the right person. They also keep in touch on how it’s going. They’ve got a lot of ideas/tools I hadn’t even thought of. Inbox me on FB if you want me to walk you through it.

    • Hi Chris – It’s Shannon from eaHELP. I’d love to have someone on my team talk with you and think through if a virtual EA is the right solution for you. Would you be open to having a conversation about it?

      Thanks!

  2. What a great article in support of the Virtual Assistant Industry and how we are able to provide such time saving solutions to the business owner.

    Delegating is a low cost high, pay off activity allowing the entrepreneur to focus solely on their core genius. As the article mentioned, the service solutions are unlimited, especially when you partner with a long term VA who was a team with varied skill-sets to support all of the daily business operations.

    Best of success.

    Suzie
    Ace Concierge, LLC

  3. Jeff,

    This is a very interesting idea. Can you share some examples of tasks that your Virtual Assistant does as well as what your on-site assistant does?

    • Hey Jordan. Here’s a great list from EAHelp http://www.eahelp.com/services/. Other things that might be on this list that she does would be taking notes in meetings and updating social media/blog posts.

      My onsite assistant does great work and has been working with us for years in a few roles. Part of her role is administrative, and part of her presence has to do with her recognized leadership within our community. At times she recruits and leads teams of volunteers, which I think is more of a challenge for a VA. If we wanted to free up more of my onsite assistant’s time, we could increase the hours my VA works to cover some more admin tasks.

  4. Also, how much does it cost per hour? can that change week to week? are there any start-up fees etc?

    • Hi Jordan – We do have an implementation fee and a set hourly rate. If you are interested in setting up a call, we can talk through the rates. Please let me know.

      Thanks!

  5. I’ve seen from $12-$45 an hr depending on the education/expertise you want. They often give you a quote based on your needs. The quality of the service you get varies according to what you pay. Things to look for are:

    1. Where does the person live?
    ***Do the research to be sure that the VA is getting fairly treated and fairly compensated. This is a big reason I chose EAHelp.
    2. Do you get a dedicated person who works only for you?
    3. What is their level of education?
    4. Do they match you with someone who fits your software, time flexibility, and expertise needs?
    5. Is there someone who manages them and your experience?
    6. Are there other costs for cellphone etc.

    As far as start up costs go, you can end up paying a minimal start up cost.
    The more you pay the more flexible people are with time, but if you continually go over the hours you’ve signed a contract for, they will ask you to upgrade to the next packages (ex. from 5hrs a week to 10hrs a week).

  6. It’s great to hear when some contracts with a VA and has stellar results. I’ve always said that finding the right VA is lot like dating, but we are your partner in success. If you succeed, then we succeed and that is great motivation to partner with someone great.

    While independent VA’s set their own rate, rate alone shouldn’t be the only factor in choosing a VA. Personalities must mesh. Many of us offer a rate based on skill set needed, time requirements and budget.

    Here to wishing you a long and continued success with your VA partnership 🙂
    Denise

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